Send to

Choose Destination
Can J Surg. 2019 Oct 1;62(5):347-355.

Selective nonoperative management of penetrating abdominal trauma at a level 1 Canadian trauma centre: a quest for perfection

Author information

From the Department of Surgery, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ont.


in English, French


Many patients who sustain penetrating abdominal trauma can be managed nonoperatively. The Eastern Association for the Surgery of Trauma (EAST) has published guidelines on selective nonoperative management (SNOM), and this approach is well established. The purpose of this study is to assess the management of penetrating abdominal trauma, including the selection of patients for SNOM and the use of this approach, at a Canadian level 1 trauma centre.


We used the Hamilton Health Sciences trauma registry to compile data on patients aged 16 years and older who sustained penetrating abdominal trauma from Jan. 1, 2011, to Dec. 31, 2017. Hemodynamically stable, nonperitonitic patients without evisceration or impalement were considered potentially eligible for SNOM. We compared the SNOM group of patients with the immediate operative (IOR) group. Our primary outcome was SNOM failure; secondary outcomes included length of stay, repeat imaging, computed tomography (CT) protocol, laparoscopy in left thoracoabdominal trauma, and nontherapeutic and negative laparotomies.


We included 191 patients with penetrating abdominal trauma; 123 underwent SNOM and 68 underwent IOR. Of the 68 patients in the IOR group, 4 underwent nontherapeutic laparotomies. Of the 123 patients in the SNOM group, this approach failed in 7 (5.7%). Patients who were successfully managed with SNOM had an average length of stay of 25.4 hours (7.9–43.0 h), with no repeat imaging in 34/35 (97.1%). Only 5 of the 47 patients with flank/back wounds had a CT scan that included luminal contrast. Only 3 of the 58 patients with left thoracoabdominal wounds underwent same-admission laparoscopy, all demonstrating diaphragmatic defects.


Our study demonstrates a high rate of compliance with the EAST SNOM guidelines, including minimal failure rate of SNOM and an efficient use of resources as demonstrated by reduced length of stay and minimal use of reimaging. We identified 2 opportunities for improvement: improved use of luminal contrast CT in patients with flank/back wounds and improved use of diagnostic laparoscopy in patients with left thoracoabdominal wounds.

Free full text

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for The Canadian Medical Association
Loading ...
Support Center